TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays avoided arbitration with right-hander Carlos Villanueva, second baseman Kelly Johnson and outfielder Ben Francisco on Tuesday, signing all three to non-guaranteed one-year deals.
Johnson is scheduled to make US$6.375 million in 2012 while Villanueva agreed to a deal just under $2.3 million and Francisco is slated to get $1.537 million.
Toronto has two arbitration-eligible players remaining — pitchers Casey Janssen and Brandon Morrow.
Second-year general manager Alex Anthopoulos said unless either or both players agree to a multi-year contract, the Jays and the player’s representatives will indeed meet before an arbitrator, likely sometime next month.
“The one thing we both agree on is the players should get a raise and the players should make more than they made last year,” he said during a conference call. “I think we’re all on the same page that we like the players and want to give them a raise.
“What we can’t see eye-to-eye on is how much of a raise to give them so the third party has to get involved to tell us what the right amount is. We don’t have a problem with that.”
Then again, the Jays were scheduled to go to arbitration last year with slugger Jose Bautista and pitcher Jason Frasor, but settled on multi-year deals with both players prior to meeting with an arbitrator. Bautista agreed to a five-year, US$64-million deal with a club option for a sixth year at $14 million while Frasor reached a one-year, $3.5-million agreement with a club option for 2012 worth $3.75 million.
“We’re a big believer that two things get deals done: momentum and deadlines,” Anthopoulos said. “We find by having a deadline in place it forces us and the players’ side to come to the table and be more aggressive and we both know we’re working hard to try to avoid going to a room and try to get a deal done and we find it has worked well.”
The 28-year-old Villanueva appeared in 33 games — including 13 starts — with Toronto last year. He posted a 6-4 record and 4.04 earned-run average.
The Dominican Republic native is a career 26-28 with a 4.28 ERA in 263 games — including 40 starts — with Milwaukee and Toronto.
Johnson was acquired Aug. 23 from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He posted a .270 average with three home runs and nine RBIs with Toronto.
The 29-year-old Texan has a .260 average with a .343 on-base percentage and .441 slugging percentage in 791 games with Atlanta, Arizona and Toronto.
Francisco was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies on Dec. 12 and will make his Toronto debut this season. The Santa Ana, Calif., native hit .240 with six home runs and 34 RBIs in 2011 for the Phillies.
The 30-year-old has a .260 lifetime average with 45 home runs and 174 RBIs over five seasons.
The Blue Jays also gave infielder Mark Teahen his unconditional release. Toronto acquired the 30-year-old Teahen from the Chicago White Sox on July 27 with right-hander Edwin Jackson for Frasor and right-hander Zach Stewart.
Teahen hit .200 last season in 78 games with Toronto and Chicago, adding four home runs and 14 runs-batted in.